This paper aims to contribute to developing the normative framework for rights-based social protection systems and discusses lessons learned in some emblematic programmes implemented in Latin America which have sought to advance a rights approach. The paper emphasizes the added value of the rights-based approach and describes the normative content of the right to social security. It then describes the basic elements of a rights-based approach and examines how it is operationalized in the design, implementation and evaluation of landmark social protection programmes in the region. The paper seeks to demonstrate that, despite the large gap that still exists between the rhetoric of a human rights approach and its implementation in specific policies, there have been significant achievements in some countries in Latin America. It argues that some of the good practices in the region can serve as policy examples to follow elsewhere. The paper concludes with a number of public policy recommendations with a view to consolidating the rights perspective in social protection programmes.